Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (French: Valérian et la Cité des mille planètes) is a 2017 English-language French 3D space opera film written and directed by Luc Besson, and co-produced by Besson and his wife, Virginie Besson-Silla. The film is based on the French science fiction comics series Valérian and Laureline, written by Pierre Christin and illustrated by Jean-Claude Mézières. It stars Dane DeHaan as Valerian and Cara Delevingne as Laureline, with Clive Owen, Rihanna, Ethan Hawke, Herbie Hancock, Kris Wu and Rutger Hauer in supporting roles. Besson independently crowd-sourced and personally funded Valerian. With a production budget of around $180 million, it is both the most expensive European and independent film ever made.
|Valerian and the City|
of a Thousand Planets
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Luc Besson|
|Screenplay by||Luc Besson|
|Based on||Valérian and Laureline|
by Pierre Christin
|Music by||Alexandre Desplat|
|Edited by||Julien Rey|
|Distributed by||EuropaCorp Distribution|
|Box office||$225.9 million|
Valerian was released by STXfilms on 21 July 2017 in the United States, and in France on 26 July, by EuropaCorp. It received mixed reviews from critics, who criticized the plot and some of the casting, but praised the visuals. It grossed $225 million worldwide, but due to its high production and advertising costs, it was considered a commercial failure following its release in the United States.
In the 28th century, due to cooperation between the Earth's countries (beginning with the ASTP of 1975) and extraterrestrial peoples, the former International Space Station has been added to until its mass threatens to cause it to fall out of orbit. Relocated to deep space using a set of thrusters, it becomes Alpha, a space-traveling city inhabited by millions of species from thousands of planets. A special police division is created by the "United Human Federation" (a world government formed by a federation of Earth's countries) to preserve peace through the galaxy, including happy-go-lucky Major Valerian and his partner, no-nonsense Sergeant Laureline.
En route to a mission, Valerian dreams of a planet, Mül, where a low-tech humanoid race lives peacefully. They fish for pearls containing enormous amounts of energy, and use small animals to replicate them. Wreckage begins plummeting from the sky, followed by a huge spacecraft falling and causing an explosion that annihilates every living being on the planet. Some of the sentient inhabitants enter a discarded vessel and accidentally trap themselves inside, but the planet's young princess Lihö-Minaa is stranded outside. Just before her unavoidable death, she conveys a telepathic message.
Shaken, Valerian awakes. After an argument with Laureline regarding their relationship, analysis reveals he might have received a signal from across time and space. He learns that his mission is to retrieve a "Mül converter,” so-called for being able to replicate anything it eats. It is the last of its kind, and currently in the hands of black market dealer Igon Siruss. Before setting out, Valerian asks Laureline to marry him, but she brushes him off due to his aversion to commitment and numerous affairs with colleagues.
On planet Kirian at a massive extra-dimensional bazaar called "Big Market,” Valerian disrupts a meeting in a zone restricted to humans between Igon and two hooded figures who resemble the humanoids from his vision. They also seek the converter which turns out to be the small animal he saw in his vision. Valerian and Laureline recover the converter and surreptitiously steal one of the pearls. Aboard their ship, he learns that Mül was destroyed 30 years earlier, and all information about it is classified.
They return to Alpha where their frosty superior, Commander Arün Filitt, informs them that the center of the station has been infected by an unknown force, rendering it highly toxic. Troops sent into the area have not returned, and the infection is growing. Laureline and Valerian are assigned to protect the commander during an interstation summit to discuss the crisis. Against the Commander's wishes, Laureline maintains possession of the converter.
During the summit, the humanoids suddenly attack, incapacitating everyone before kidnapping Filitt. Valerian chases the kidnappers on foot, on his spacecraft, and then on his Lexus SkyJet aircraft to the infected area and crashes the plane. Evading arrest for insubordination, Laureline enlists the help of some aliens to track Valerian and later finds him unconscious at the edge of the infected zone. She rouses him but is soon kidnapped by a primitive imperial tribe from the planet Goara called "Boulan Bathors" that live nearby. Valerian infiltrates the tribe's territory with the help of the shape-shifting Glamopod entertainer Bubble he met in the red-light district of Paradise Alley. They rescue Laureline and escape, despite Bubble being heavily wounded in the escape. Near death, she tells Valerian to never give up on his feelings for Laureline.
Valerian and Laureline venture further into the infected area, discovering it is actually not toxic at all and contains some wrecks of antique spacecraft. They reach a large shielded hall where they find the humanoids, known as "Pearls", along with an unconscious Filitt. Their leader, Emperor Haban Limaï, explains that his people lived peacefully on Mül until a battle in orbit broke out between the Federation's fleet and a faction known as "Southern Territories.” The human commander, Filitt, ordered the use of three powerful fusion missiles that disabled the enemy ship but caused it to crash into the planet, annihilating Mül. Upon her passing, Princess Lihö-Minaa transferred her soul into Valerian's body.
After the survivors trapped themselves inside the wreckage, they managed to repair it and learned of the humans' technology and history. They eventually came to Alpha, helped by some merchants, where they assimilated more knowledge and built a ship of their own by stealing parts from the various peoples of the universe. They needed only the converter and the pearl to launch the ship so they could find a planet to use their technology and recreate their homeworld. Filitt admits his role in the genocide, but argues that it was necessary to end the war, as was the cover-up to prevent the humans from being expelled from Alpha. Valerian and Laureline disagree, arguing that the commander has only been trying to save himself from the consequences for his actions, before Valerian knocks him out.
Valerian hands over the pearl he stole, and Laureline persuades him to return the converter too, ignoring procedure. While the Pearls' spacecraft prepares for takeoff, Filitt's pre-programmed robot K-Tron soldiers attack the Pearls, the government soldiers who were sent to assist Valerian, and their support staff, but are ultimately defeated. The spacecraft departs and Filitt is arrested. Valerian and Laureline are left adrift onboard a still working Apollo Command/Service Module, which is identified by radio technicians as "Destiny 2005", and Laureline finally answers Valerian's marriage proposal with a "maybe" as they wait for rescue.
- Dane DeHaan as Valerian, a United Human Federation soldier and Laureline's partner/love interest
- Cara Delevingne as Laureline, a United Human Federation soldier and Valerian's partner/love interest
- Clive Owen as Arün Filitt, Valerian and Laureline's commander
- Rihanna as the human form of Bubble, a shapeshifting Glamopod entertainer.
- Ethan Hawke as Jolly the Pimp, Bubble's protector.
- Herbie Hancock as Defence Minister
- Kris Wu as Sergeant Neza
- Rutger Hauer as World State Federation President
- John Goodman as Igon Siruss (voice), a Kodar'Khan pirate captain and the galaxy's most-wanted criminal
- Elizabeth Debicki as Emperor Haban Limaï (voice)
- Sasha Luss as Princess Lihö-Minaa
- Sam Spruell as General Okto Bar
- Ola Rapace as Major Gibson
- Alain Chabat as Bob the Pirate
- Thom Findlay as The Pirates (voice)
- Mathieu Kassovitz as Camelot on Big Market
- Jonas Bloquet as K-Tron Warrior/Control Room Soldier
- Sand Van Roy as Jessica Rabbit Creature
- Louis Leterrier as Captain Welcoming Mercurys
- Olivier Megaton as Captain Welcoming KCO2
- Gavin Drea as Sergeant Cooper
- Eric Lampaert as Guide Thaziit, a human guiding tourists in the Big Market
- Claire Tran as Control room Sergeant
Although Luc Besson loved the Valerian comics growing up, he did not seriously consider adapting them into a movie until he was working on The Fifth Element. During development, Besson had tapped Valerian illustrator Jean-Claude Mézières to work on the film, who asked Besson, "Why are you doing this shitty film? Why you don’t do Valerian?" At the time, Besson felt that making the film was "impossible" given the vast alien-to-human ratio. The release of Avatar served as both a blessing and a curse for Besson; he has said, "technically, I could see that we can do everything now. The film proved that imagination is the only limit." However, he also felt that "James Cameron pushed all the levels so high," which made him believe that his script was not good enough, so he rewrote it. Ultimately, the storyboarding for the film took seven months.
The project was first publicly reported in 2012. The two principal stars, Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne, were announced in May 2015. On 19 August 2015, Clive Owen signed on to play Commander Arün Filitt in the film. The budget, €197 million, is by far the largest ever assembled for a French film. Previously, Asterix at the Olympic Games was the most expensive, at €78 million, just ahead of Besson's The Fifth Element (€75 million). By the end of August 2015, Besson said in an RTL radio interview that shooting the film in France was too expensive. Because it was filmed in a foreign language (English), Besson was unable to benefit from tax credits, despite preferring to produce the film in France and create jobs for 1,200 crew members. The criteria to obtain these tax credits were then adapted accordingly. In May 2015, it was announced Fundamental Films would invest US$50 million in the film.
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Principal photography on the film began on 5 January 2016 in seven sound stages dedicated to the film at the Cité du cinéma, in Saint-Denis, north of Paris. In total, there are 2,734 visual effect shots. The humanoid race the Pearl were completely synthetic creations by Weta Digital, which generated the characters from performances by actors with motion-capture equipment for their face and bodies.
The first teaser for Valerian was released on 10 November 2016. The teaser depicts Marmakas, an Entertainer (Bubble, identified as "Glamopod" in the film), Bagoulins, and Shingouz (known as "Doghan Daguis" in the film), who all appear in Ambassador of the Shadows. A special exclusive preview of Valerian was shown prior to the Fathom Events 4K restoration showing of The Fifth Element on 14 May and 17 May.
Valerian was released in Israel on 20 July 2017, on 21 July in the United States, on 26 July in France. and on 2 August in the UK  Lionsgate handles the film's release in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and STX Entertainment distributes the film in the United States. The film was released on 25 August 2017 in China.
The official Soundtrack for "Valerian" was released on July 21, 2017 on Vinyl, CD, and Digital download. The total duration of this soundtrack album is exactly the same number of minutes as the duration of the film itself — 137 minutes.
|Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Film Score|
|Film score by|
|Released||July 21, 2017|
|Genre||Pop;Rock; Film Score|
|Alexandre Desplat chronology|
|Singles from Valerian|
|1.||"Big Market" (written by Luc Besson)||Alexandre Desplat||2:05|
|2.||"Space Oddity"||David Bowie||5:18|
|3.||"I Feel Everything"||Cara Delevingne||3:02|
|5.||"Bus Attack"||Alexandre Desplat||3:08|
|6.||"We Trying to Stay Alive"||Wyclef Jean featuring Pras & John Forté||3:13|
|7.||"Arriving on Alpha"||Alexandre Desplat||2:06|
|8.||"A Million on My Soul (Radio Edit)"||Alexiane||2:59|
|10.||"Bubble Dance"||Julien Rey||2:25|
|11.||"Spaceship Chase"||Alexandre Desplat||3:33|
|12.||"The World (Is Going up in Flames)"||Charles Bradley||3:22|
|13.||"A Million on My Soul"||Alexiane||4:07|
|15.||"Pearls on Mul"||Alexandre Desplat||7:36|
|16.||"Reading the Memo"||Alexandre Desplat featuring Trug||1:23|
|17.||"Flight Above the Big Market"||Alexandre Desplat||2:44|
|19.||"Valerian in Trouble"||Alexandre Desplat||1:38|
|20.||"Pearls Attack"||Alexandre Desplat||4:05|
|24.||"Fishing for Butterflies"||1:58|
|25.||"Le souper du Roi"||1:59|
|29.||"The City of 1000 Planets"||3:50|
|30.||"I Am a Soldier"||2:04|
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets grossed $40.5 million in the United States and Canada and $184.7 million internationally (including $36.8 million in France), for a worldwide total of $225.2 million. With a production budget around $180 million, the film would have needed to gross $400 million worldwide in order to break even and justify a sequel.
In North America, Valerian opened alongside Dunkirk and Girls Trip, and was initially projected to gross $20–25 million from 3,553 theaters, although some insiders believed it would open in the teens. It made $6.5 million on its first day, including $1.7 million from Thursday night previews at 2,600 theaters, lowering weekend projections to $16.5 million. The film ended up debuting to $17 million, finishing 5th at the box office, leading Deadline Hollywood to already label the film a domestic box office bomb, and causing an 8.31% fall of the EuropaCorp stock on the following Monday. In its second weekend, the film dropped 62% to $6.4 million, finishing 8th at the box office. In its third and fourth weekends the film made $2.4 million and $901,323, finishing 12th and 17th and dropping another 62% both times.
Outside North America, the film opened in 16 markets alongside the US and made $6.5 million over its opening weekend, including $2.5 million in Germany. In France, the film made $3.72 million (€3.19 million) on its first day, the second-best opening day of 2017 there behind Despicable Me 3. In China, the film made $9.9 million on its first day from 78,000 screens, becoming the first film to displace Wolf Warriors 2 at the country's box office. It went on to open to $29 million, topping the box office. The largest territory for the film was China, with US$62.1 million.
Valerian received mixed reviews from critics, who praised its visuals while criticizing the plot and some of the casting. On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 48% based on 256 reviews, with an average rating of 5.5/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets uses sheer kinetic energy and visual thrills to overcome narrative obstacles and offer a viewing experience whose surreal pleasures often outweigh its flaws." On Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average rating to reviews, the film has a score of 51 out of 100, based on reviews from 45 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". On French entertainment information website AlloCiné, the film has an average grade of 3.0/5, based on 31 critics. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B–" on an A+ to F scale.
David Ehrlich of IndieWire gave the film a grade of B-, praising how "unapologetically idiosyncratic" the film is, while also saying "the vividness of this place only underscores the lifelessness of the people leading us through it .... There are 394 million stories on the City of a Thousand Planets, and Valerian’s might be the only one we’ve seen before. Still, any excuse to visit this place is one worth taking." Peter Sciretta of /Film touted the first half of Valerian as "unpredictable and bonkers insane", while calling the second half more formulaic and "far less exciting", though he still encouraged seeing the film in 3D "on the biggest screen possible". Ignatiy Vishnevetsky of The A.V. Club wrote that it was "rare […] to see a film this extravagant that also feels, for better or worse, like the work of a single personality. The longer action scenes may not always rank with Besson’s early ’90s highlights [...] or the mania of the more recent Lucy, but there isn’t a moment in this ludicrous, lushly self-indulgent movie that doesn’t feel like its creator is having the time of his life."
Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter gave a negative review, saying: "The Razzies don't need to wait until the end of the year to anoint a winner for 2017 ... Hollywood studio chiefs can breathe easy that, this time, at least, they'll escape blame for making a giant summer franchise picture that nobody wants to see, since this one's a French import." A. O. Scott of The New York Times was also less than happy with the film, writing the effort "feels as if it were made up on the spot, by someone so delighted by the gaudy genre packaging at his disposal that he lost track of what was supposed to be inside." National Public Radio film critic, Mark Jenkins, additionally wrote in a negative review that the film's "perspective often seems more 19th- than 26th-century, notably in a sequence where Laureline is captured by members of a hostile species and forced to don a white dress to be presented to their emperor. The blobby computer-generated creatures resemble natives from the most racist of Tarzan movies."
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipients||Result||Ref.|
|Saturn Awards||June 27, 2018||Best Science Fiction Film||Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets||Nominated|||
|Best Production Design||Hugues Tissandier||Nominated|
|Best Costume Design||Olivier Bériot||Nominated|
Despite the film being a disappointment at the box office, director Luc Besson claims a sequel is still possible due to positive fan reaction.
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